Friday, August 31, 2007
Monday, August 06, 2007
Source Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
What is it?
Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of a condition called dementia. Dementia is a general decline in mental ability, such as memory, language skills, judgment, and concentration. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, which means symptoms occur gradually and become worse over time. It is named for the German doctor who first described it, Alois Alzheimer.
Who gets it?
Alzheimer’s disease affects most commonly affects those over the age of 65, although it has been diagnosed in people in their 40s and 50s.
What causes it?
The degeneration of parts of the brain, which destroys brain cells, causes the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. However, at this time researchers are not sure what causes this degeneration. Those with a family history of Alzheimer’s are more likely to develop the disease as they age, so there is a gene abnormality that causes the disease in some people. Researchers are looking for links between Alzheimer’s disease and the environment, lifestyle, nutrition, and viruses.
What are the symptoms?
Alzheimer’s usually progresses in three stages, with each lasting anywhere from one to several years. The first symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is usually mild forgetfulness. Someone in the early stages may find him or herself unable to find the right word, recall where something was placed, or recall someone’s name. It may be difficult to concentrate. At this point, symptoms are so general that they do not signal a serious problem or have a great impact on day-to-day functioning. As the disease progresses to the second stage, the forgetfulness becomes worse, making it difficult to function at work, remember directions, or to even make it through the day without difficulty. The person may be restless and unable to sleep at night. His or her personality may change considerably, with increasing anxiety and decreasing emotions. By the late stages of Alzheimer’s, patients suffer from extreme confusion and memory loss. They are unable to recall the names of close friends and family or recent events, and cannot function socially or perform basic daily personal care. Late-stage Alzheimer’s patients may have hallucinations and delusions.
How is it diagnosed?
Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed by taking a complete medical history and performing a thorough physical examination. Alzheimer’s is generally suspected when there is a gradual deterioration in mental ability. The doctor will perform tests, such as blood tests and brain scans, to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms. The doctor will also ask the patient a series of questions to test his or her mental status. One type of test of mental status is called neuropsychological testing, which is a standardized test of memory, concentration, and visual-spatial skills. Because a definite diagnosis can only be made by performing an autopsy after death, patients are diagnosed with “probable” Alzheimer’s. An autopsy of brain tissue, however, will show areas of abnormal tissue, called plaques, made up of abnormal proteins; a loss of nerve cells; and areas of tangles in the nerve cells that remain in patient’s with Alzheimer’s disease.
What is the treatment?
At this time, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Treatment focuses on maintaining the best possible quality of life for the patient by providing a supportive environment. Memory aids, such as calendars and other daily reminders of time and place, can help the patient feel more secure and reduce confusion. There are some medications that, when used in the early stages of this disease, can slow memory loss in some patients for a limited amount of time. However, these drugs are used with caution because of potential side effects. Other drugs may be prescribed to treat anxiety, sleeplessness, depression, and hallucinations, as necessary. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, it is important to help the patient maintain as much independence as possible. As the disease progresses, it may be necessary to seek the help of a home healthcare aid, an adult daycare, or nursing home. While there is currently no treatment to prevent or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s, researchers are continuing to study this disease and test new drugs. There is a possibility that certain types of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.
A diagnosis of probable Alzheimer’s is devastating for someone who has been accustomed to living an independent life. It is important to provide the patient with emotional and physical support as he or she adjusts to living with this disease. Keeping the daily routine consistent and as stress free as possible is helpful. Because depression is so common in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, you should be aware of the signs of depression and seek help for the patient as soon as possible. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can be demanding and discouraging, especially when the loved one does not remember who you are. Your doctor or local social services agency can direct you to support services to help make this time a little easier. Also seek legal advice so it is clear who has the power to make medical and financial decisions once your loved one is no longer able to do this for him or herself. If you have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease, see your doctor for regular checkups. An early diagnosis is important, especially as the medical community learns more about this disease and its treatment. While there is no way to prevent this disease, you can lower your risk and protect yourself from many illnesses by following a healthy diet that is high in fiber and antioxidants and low in saturated fat, and participating in regular physical exercise. Performing activities that stimulate your brain on a regular basis, such as crossword puzzles, word searches, or memory games, may also help maintain mental ability longer.
This information has been designed as a comprehensive and quick reference guide written by our health care reviewers. The health information written by our authors is intended to be a supplement to the care provided by your physician. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.
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Thursday, July 26, 2007
The article on the next page is one of the best I have read. The basic underlying premise is that behavior changes slowly in the elderly and if they begin to suffer cognitive impairment it will be evidenced in behavioral changes. Sometimes these changes can be quite subtle but if detected could raise a “red flag”.
If my mother had been enrolled in any of these studies I feel certain she would have been diagnosed with dementia sooner. This would have allowed me to get her in an exercise program, get her proper nutrition, and insure that she was taking her medicines as prescribed. I leaned in the last three years how important these three factors are in the quality of her life.
My mother turned 91 years old in June and she suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. I am her CarGiver.
I am an Alzheimer's Caregiver: The early signs of Dementia (Alzheimer's)
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People with Alzheimer Disease, Other Dementias, and Memory Loss in Later Life
This best-selling book is the "bible" for families caring for people with Alzheimer disease...
Read the full text review at The Alzheimer's Reading Room
Monday, April 09, 2007
Read this at the Alzheimer's Reading Room, The: Americans Fear Alzheimer’s More Than Heart Disease, Diabetes or Stroke
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
The Alzheimer’s Association today reports that in 2007 there are now more than 5 million people in the United States living with Alzheimer’s disease. This number includes 4.9 million people over the age of 65 and between 200,000 and 500,000 people under age 65 with early onset Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
Read more about this topic at The Alzheimer's Reading Room
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Dr. Robert S. Wilson told Reuters Health that difficulty identifying odors seems to be related the buildup of 'tangles' in the brain that appear early in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. “We found the correlation of difficulty identifying familiar odors with Alzheimer’s disease pathology even in people without dementia,” he added.
Go read the entire article at The Alzheimer's Reading Room Weblog: Trouble identifying odors points to Alzheimer’s
Thursday, March 08, 2007
"Nursing home residents with Alzheimer's disease who participate in a moderate exercise program have a significantly slower deterioration than those who receive routine medical care, researchers have shown."
Read the article in its entirety at the CareGiver: The Book Weblog
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Read this article at The Senior Reading Room
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Read about the study including requirements and available locations at The Alzheimer's Reading Room: Huperzine A in Alzheimer's Disease-The Clinical Trial.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Friday, January 05, 2007
"After a century, promising treatments at last—and whispers of a cure"
Read this article in its entirety at The Alzheimer’s Reading Room